Archives for category: politics
Trump summoned supporters to “wild” protest, and told them to fight. They did

One of my high-school mates had emigrated to Canada. From Romania. He’s been living there for 25 years now. We keep in touch. A few years ago, he told me:

“We come from their future. I currently experience things which had already happened in Romania.”

His prophecy had been fulfilled, and then some, yesterday. The sixth of January, 2021.

1991, Romanian miners occupying the Romanian Parliament.

The differences between the two instances exist and they are not insignificant.

Both Trump and Iliescu – the Romanian president at that time, had been democratically elected. Both on populist platforms, even if the concept wasn’t as widely used in 1991 as it is now.

Only 1991 wasn’t the first time the miners had come to Bucharest.
In 1990 Ion Iliescu – the ‘cripto’ communist leader who had risen to power as a consequence of the 1989 uprising, had ‘thanked’ the miners for quelling a ‘festering’ anti neo-communist protest organized mainly by students.
In fact, this had been yet another precedent. ‘Occupy’ Piata Universitatii 1990 versus Occupy ‘Everything’ 2011.
In 1991, the miners had, again, ‘occupied’ Bucharest. Again, ‘supposedly’, under their own volition. The then prime minister, Petre Roman, had adopted some very stringent free market reforms. Which had fallen foul of both Iliescu and certain swaths of the population. Hence the miners had not been driven back to Valea Jiului until Petre Roman had been revoked from office.

And 1991 wasn’t the last time the miners had attempted to make themselves noticed…
As the old saying goes, it’s harder to quiet down a hornet’s nest than to stir it up!

We’ll see, as the blind man always says.

This was one of the favorite slogans shouted by the anti-communist protesters in Romania’s ‘Piata Universitatii‘.
And the anthem used by those who opposed the regime which had ‘confiscated’ the political power after 1990.

The only problem with this notion being that it doesn’t make much sense. Not on the ‘face of it’. Not in any rational way…

You see, most individuals would choose life against any other ‘alternatives’.
When ‘the going gets tough’ most of us would accept almost any compromise in order to stay alive.

I’m not offering any examples. Use your own ‘imagination’.

Let me explain what ‘being a communist’ meant in Romania during Ceausescu’s rule.

First of all, in 1989 the ‘party’ was 4 million strong. 18% of the population were ‘proud’ carriers of the red membership card!
Were all of them ‘die hard’ communists?
Not at all!
Most of them had accepted to become members simply because they had no other alternative. Without the party’s ‘approval stamp’ one could not ‘accrue’ any significance. Nada! Nothing!
Could not get any promotion. Get an education higher than the equivalent of a college degree. Go visit a foreign country – not even a communist one!
Nor could you move out from your parents home!
Not easily, anyway. To be granted your own apartment, you had to submit an application to the relevant authority. Which application had to ‘checked’ by the relevant party official if you were to have any chance of success. Which ‘relevant party official’ was way more likely to approve your application if you were already a ‘member’.
And so on.

Then why would anyone refuse to become a member?!?

Thirty years later, I finally figured out the real meaning of the whole concept.
For you to get the whole picture, I must introduce you to a few more verses.

“Bum better than traitor
Hooligan better than dictator
‘Good for nothing’ better than activist
And dead better than a communist!”

By now, I’m sure most of you already had your Eureka moment.

‘Better to be dead than an ‘active’ communist’!

You don’t know what ‘activist’ exactly meant in communist Romania?

For starters, a ‘regular’ communist was just a ‘member’. You did have some ‘potential perks’ but you had to ask for them. And you were never sure your wishes were going to come true.
The activists, on the other hand, were paid for their efforts. Their ‘well compensated’ job was to put in practice whatever the party had decided. What the brass had decided, actually…
To convince the regular members – and, through them, the rest of the population, that whatever the brass had decided was ‘in the people’s best interest’!
And to inform the higher-ups about the real situation ‘in the field’.

In a nutshell, it was the party activist’s job to keep the party together!

‘OK, to keep the party together… that makes sense… but … whose interests were promoted by the almighty party?
And why had the whole thing collapsed like a house of cards?’

Let me answer your second question first.
The whole thing had collapsed like a house of cards because there was no other alternative.

Because there was no alternative to ‘the’ party!

Because those at the top had drifted away from reality.
Because those at the top had been driven away from reality by those below them. Who had been acting in a rational manner!
Who in their right mind would contradict a powerful figure?!? Specially when there’s no alternative? When you, the ‘middle man’ see no way out? What alternative do you have but to become an yes-man? Who utters only what the higher-ups want to hear and keeps mum about everything else?

See what I mean?
Do you finally understand Frank Herbert’s message?
Do you still wonder why all authoritarian regimes eventually succumbs, being eaten from inside out by corruption?

‘Now you’ve lost me!
Are you implying that by actively promoting ideas, and acting as a back-bone for a political party, one becomes an ‘accomplice’? An enabler?!?’

Well, let me answer your first question now!
‘Whose interests were promoted by the almighty party?’

On the face of it, the main ‘beneficiary’ was ‘the people’.
Practically… the people had become ‘hungry’.
‘Hungry’ enough to applaud when the dictator had been assassinated on Christmas Night in 1989

You see, every established system tends to put its own survival before anything else.
Every individual member of the system wants to conserve its position. Which is a reasonable thing.
The problem with ‘single’ parties being what I’ve mentioned above. The party slowly drifts away from reality for the simple reason that there’s no competition to keep them ‘moored’.
‘No real alternative in sight’ allows any ‘single system’ to construe their own ‘alternative’ reality. Made of “alternative facts”.

So!
You may promote whatever ideas you want. How ever actively you want to do it.
Be the back-bone of any political party – or any other organization, you see fit.

But don’t be surprised that if you promote the ‘flat Earth alternative‘ you’ll eventually fall over.

Fall over the face of the Earth, that is!

So, in the name of liberty and in order to protect the lives of the innocents, the government should not mandate wearing a mask in public – for the duration of the current pandemic, but should close the public funded ‘planned parenthood’ clinics forever…

Individuals – both men and women, are to be trusted to take, on their own, the appropriate measures to protect themselves – and the others, but women are not to be trusted to decide, on their own, about what happens inside their own bodies.

Meanwhile, “The US and Brazil each recorded more than 100,000 cases over the seven days from June 15 to June 21, the WHO said, the only two countries with such high infection numbers.
Do I need to refresh your memory about the fact that neither of their presidents, Trump and Bolsonaro, have never been seen wearing a mask in public?

The world is full of problems. Complicated problems. Multi-layered and multi-dimensional.

The world is also full of simple, black and white, solutions. Pun intended, of course. ‘Choke’-full, actually.

A mural depicting African-American George Floyd killed in police custody in Minneapolis, U.S. (REUTERS/Christian Mang)

Some people are convinced that George Floyd’s death was a direct consequence of racism while others are convinced racism cannot explain much and that each man is responsible for his fate. Or should I have said ‘each person is responsible for their fate’?

Those who are convinced that racism is a thing of the past blame the current mess on “toxic masculine values emanating from gangs and peer groups, in the absence of marriage and male parenting.” and on schools being “forbidden to punish more black than white/Hispanic/Asian kids.
In other words, “black” people are responsible for their own fate and those ‘soft-hearted’ ‘affirmative action’ pussies are to share the blame. The only foreseeable solution being “the growth of black community schools that are prepared to take the little buggers by the scruff of the neck, discipline them, and make men out of them.”

Meanwhile, those who see racism as the single cause of the seemingly endless string of tragedies deface and decapitate statues…

A marble statue of Christopher Columbus was beheaded in Boston. (Photo by Tim Bradbury / Getty Images)

And things are further complicated by the fact that many of those who are convinced that racism is the root of all evil are white.

“White people are seeing racial injustice, they’re seeing Breonna [Taylor] and George [Floyd], and they’re seeing the cause of death was not Breonna or George; it’s racist policing,” … “Now they are seeking to transform the policy, and that’s a good thing.”

First things first.
White people demanding that racist policing must be changed is a step further. Only it won’t take us far enough. We don’t need to change a scapegoat – racism, with another.

What? Racism is a scapegoat!?!

Yep!
Racism was the scapegoat used by slave-owners to rationalize away the fact that they were using people – fellow human beings, as burden beasts.
Racism is the scapegoat used by our contemporaries to rationalize away the fact that African Americans are more likely than their white neighbors to drop out of school and to get into prison. In fact, it doesn’t matter whether you consider that African Americans make bad decisions individually, as a consequence of their race/culture or as a result of having been oppressed for so long.
For as long as we don’t acknowledge the fact that African Americans behave exactly like all the other Americans when exposed to the same socio-economic conditions we remain racists.
All of us.

“I think that we’ve got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard. And, what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the economic plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years.”

What happened since Dr. King’s prophetic words?
The American Dream has grown more and more inaccessible, even for the whites? More and more white people feel that nobody hears them?

And too many of those who should have already heard continue to remain deaf?
Or, even worse, instrumentalize that rage, already multi-racial, towards their petty political goals?

Bad things happen to politics when Americans feel like the future will be worse than the past. Reactionary and socialist ideologies ascend. The stories we tell ourselves about the problems we face have profound implications for the policy directions we take in the future. But there’s much more to the story than what politicians and pundits are telling us right now.

Nota Bene.
Racism worked as a scapegoat exactly because Afro-Americans were so easy to pin-point. To identify as being different. And from ‘different’ to alien is but a small step…
This being the reason for people of color being pulled over by the police more often than their white counter-parts. An ‘alien’ driving a Tesla ?!?

“Friedrich Engels in a thinker’s pose
The four-meter-tall bronze sculpture of the other philosopher of communism, Friedrich Engels, is a bit smaller than the planned Marx statue in Trier. This Engels monument in his hometown, Wuppertal, was also made by a Chinese artist and offered by the government of China in 2014.”

I grew up under communist rule.
We studied marxism in school.
At some point, I was about 16, the teacher asked us about the relative merits of the different brands of materialism he had mentioned during his classes.
My answer was ‘dialectic materialism is better than all others because those who apply it into practice constantly gouge the consequences of their (political) decisions and fine tune policies accordingly’.
Some 15 years later the communist lager had imploded simply because those who were supposed to act in a dialectic manner had failed to put the principle in practice.
Coming back to the original question, ‘was Marx a determinist’, the answer is yes.
Marx’s dialectics is only a procedure. Meant to help the communists exercise the dictatorship mandated by Marx in the name of the proletariat. And dictatorships are determinist by definition.
Why mandate one if you are not convinced that things can be ruled?
For the long run and in a comprehensive manner?

Life, in general, is a matter of calibrating the intercourse between the inside of the organism and the environment in which it tries to survive. Or thrive…

Social life, both in general and in particular, is a matter of calibrating social intercourse between the members of a society in such a manner that, statistically speaking, the individual members would find it easier to survive/thrive in the given physical environment.
Simply because each surviving/thriving individual adds resilience to the social organism/network.

COVID-19 is nothing but yet another test.
For now – for as long a so many of us are still in ‘surviving mode’, it doesn’t matter “how” or “why”.
All that matter is ‘what’.

“What WE do about it!”

Distance ourselves from the others and allow the pandemic to cool down?
Distance ourselves from the others and allow each of our individual minds to think for itself?

While keeping in mind that long term survival requires the physical presence of as many of us as possible? That our own long term well being requires us to cooperate towards that common goal? As Adam Smith taught us?

Then things will eventually cool down.

And we will have been learned yet another thing.

Both individually and as a cultured species.

I’m sure you’ve already learned everything worth knowing about how to flatten the curve…

My post is about something else.
About the need to think with our own heads.
Individually. Each on their own.

More damages are caused by the manner in which we have chosen to react than by the pathogen itself.

‘Then what should we do?’

I don’t know. And I just told you to stop taking cues, blindly.

There is something I do know.
Nobody can get out of something like this on its own. Alone.
And another thing. If we get out of it as a herd, we’ll very soon end up in another trap.

‘Damned if you do, damned if you don’t… I really can’t figure out what you want to say….’

OK.
We, humans, are social animals.
We not only raise our young – all mammals do that, we raise them in a social context. We live in groups and we raise our children to belong there.

Living in a social context has consequences. From being prone to infestation to having adopted specific behaviors.
Humberto Maturana is actually convinced that our very conscience – ‘our ability to observe ourselves while observing‘, a paraphrase, is a product of us leading our lives in close community.

One of these specific behaviors is the herd instinct.
Whenever in a dire strait, the members of a group pay a lot more attention to the rest of the group than in the ‘peaceful moments’.
This has two bright sides and one huge drawback.

All members of a group paying close attention to the others makes it easier for those who need it to get attention. And help.
All members of a group paying close attention to the others makes it easier for the group to follow when one of them finds a way out.
All members of a group paying too close attention to the others makes it very likely that the entire group will dash out at the first opportunity. Without checking first where they’re going to land. Nor whether there are any other opportunities.

Another specific behavior is ‘opportunism’.
Some of us have figured out that by keeping their chill in a crises they are more likely to identify whatever opportunities might exist in that moment.
And the deeper the crises, the bigger the opportunities.

Theoretically, these two should work like a charm.
The opportunists keep their chill, look around, identify the best way out and the rest of the herd follows them to safety.
A win-win situation.

Yeah… but!

Wouldn’t it be a way lot better whether all (or, at least, ‘more’) of us would keep their chill? Wouldn’t we be able to identify even more ways out?
It would take a lot more time? We’d need to discuss things over, to negotiate… we’d have to exert a lot of discretion…
True enough. Hence we’d need to evaluate two things. First, how urgent the dangerous situation is and, then, whether a better alternative would be worth searching.

And something else. In a ‘follow me blindly’ situation there’s no going back. The consequences for a hasty choice might be tremendous.

We might end up with more people being hurt by our blunder-some reaction than by the cause which had spooked us.

Yet another specific behavior is responsibility.
Living in a social context means that, sooner rather than later, individuals are censored for their actions. By the rest of the community or, sometimes, by the stark reality.
Unfortunately, sometimes entire communities are censored, by the stark reality, for not behaving responsibly. For not imposing responsibility upon their members.

For not taking enough time before choosing between flight and fight.

Let me put things into perspective.
How many of you have chosen to continue smoking despite having been warned?
How many of you have emptied the shelves despite being told there’s enough for everybody? Or that there will be soon enough?
How many of you do not smoke in the presence of your children? Because you know it will hurt them?
How many of you have taken active measures to protect the elderly? For the very same reason…

As for the economy being the main casualty of the present scourge…
I’m afraid ‘the economy’, as we know it, has been dying for quite a while now. That’s why it is so susceptible to SARS CoV-2.

The Ancient Greeks had come up with the concept of ‘oeconomia’ as the art of making the ends meet. Adam Smith had described the free market as the place/environment where competing agents made it so that people – solvent demand, could satisfy their needs.
Nowadays, too many of us understand/accept ‘economy’ as the art of getting rich. ‘Free’ in ‘free market’ is understood as ‘free’ to do anything you want. Because very few are asked to answer for the long term consequences of their actions.

The economy, as the manner in which we cooperate towards fulfilling our needs, has fallen prey to our gluttony. And to our nearsightedness.
Greed is not good. And SARS CoV-2 is only an eye opener, not the cause for the current implosion.

According to Abe Lincoln, democracy is about “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

No photo description available.

But what if not enough of the ‘people’ care about who governs them? Nor towards what?

A couple of years ago a previously unknown author had come up with a “radical new theory“. One which maintains that “modern American elections are rarely shaped by voters changing their minds, but rather by shifts in who decides to vote in the first place“.

The picture above is proof that Rachel Bitecofer, the ‘previously unknown author’, is right.

On the other hand, Barend ter Haar, among others, ‘suggests’ that “democracy is a form of conflict management within states“.

The last proposition also makes a lot of sense.
Democracy, when functional, lowers ‘political temperature’ to levels where individual members of the community/nation may focus on identifying and solving the problems which might endanger the survival of the entire social organism.
Otherwise put, democracy dramatically increases the survival chances of the communities who are wise enough to maintain its true character. Who are wise enough to make it work. Properly.

What prompted me to believe such a thing?
Look back in history. All authoritarian regimes – a.k.a. ’empires’, have eventually crumbled under their own weight while no democracy has ever ‘folded its hand’ before loosing first its democratic character.

Which brings us to ‘what is the gist of democracy’?
Or, in ter Haar’s terms, who is responsible for maintaining it? Who ‘runs’ the “conflict management within states”?

This is where I part ways with ter Haar.
For me, democracy is something natural. It has to come from within.
There is no one who can, or should, manage it.
Administer it – as in accurately counting the ballots and making sure that rules are followed, obviously. Actually managing the process?!?. No! That would defeat the very purpose of the democratic process. For the people to find its own way.

But there are so many who can spoil it… Willingly or unwillingly!

First among them being those who decide to stay at home.
To keep mum.
For whatever reason!

Because those who keep mum are those who allow the ‘pirates’ to ‘steal’ the helm.
Just as keeping quiet is the worst attitude when somebody bullies you, staying at home on election day empowers those with less than fully democratic attitudes to ascend to power.

How often do you hear this expression?
Are you OK with it?
Because you’ve grown accustomed with it or because you are OK with the idea of politics being a contest? A game to be won?

In a certain context, I’ve been asked which game is a more ‘fitting description’ of politics. Chess or Go?

Both being, as I’m sure you already know, strategic games where all ‘tactical’ information is above the board, where the scope is to ‘control the territory through the smart use of available resources’ and where neither of the competitors have any real idea of what their opponent might have in mind.
Yes, there are rules and limitations. Of course. So each of them are able to divine a ‘probable course of action’ but …

Going back to politics, I’ll just quote myself:

“Politics like Go… very interesting question.
Go is a game. Something to play with. And play is very important, indeed. Through play, we hone skills used in real life. When playing, it doesn’t matter whether you win or loose. There’s something to be learned in both situations.
While in real life, loosing is not an option.
In playing, all that matters is to participate. In life, all that matters is to survive.
When playing, we improve our skills by competing against each-other. In life, we survive by helping each-other.
In this sense, politics is an exercise of cooperation more than a competition. A process through which the whole community finds its way forward rather than a beauty pageant where the next beauty queen is nominated to carry the torch through the dark. For a while…
The point being that all community/nations which had allowed personal interest – lust for wealth/power, to trump the collective need to survive have eventually collapsed. From Ancient Rome to Soviet Russia.
This being where Marx was hugely mistaken. While he understood history as a succession of class struggles – to be ended by the mother of all dictatorships, in reality is was a continuous evolution/honing of cooperation. From slavery to feudalism and to democratic capitalism people learned to do more and more things together. The status of the individual – of all the individual members of any given society, gradually improved while the communities have become more resilient and more productive.
And all attempts to revert to more ‘centralized’ alternatives – no matter how the ‘winners’ were supposed to be determined, have failed. All political and economical dictatorships – authoritarian-isms and monopolistic situations, have crumbled.
Not before incurring a lot of pain to those who allowed them to happen, helas. Contestants and spectators alike.”

Now go fight for your favorite political figure.
And allow hate to alter your perceptions.

My friend and coworker asked me the other day:
“Why do these people hate each-other so passionately?”

“Because they are rational. They have reached their present convictions as the result of a rational process. Hence they are convinced they are absolutely right. Then, when anybody expresses a different opinion, they interpret ‘dissent’ as a personal attack. My ‘truth’ having been reached in a rational manner means that all other opinions must be false. Defending them – against all ‘evidence’, means that these people are either provocative or, even, outright destructive.”

“But being rational doesn’t include being open to the possibility of being wrong?”

“I’ll have to rephrase. ‘They are convinced they are acting in a rational manner’. In fact, we, humans, are ‘rationalizing’ rather than ‘thinking rationally’. We use whatever arguments/information we have at our disposal to justify whatever conviction we already harbor. And only when reality slaps us in our faces we ‘open up’. Even science and justice work out this way.
“Innocent until proven guilty”. Only scientists and law-enforcers are already accustomed to the possibility that things may not be exactly as they previously thought they were. Politically minded people are still learning.”

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